If there are more ways to cover the epic implosion of Anthrax FC . . . er, Manchester United, they are coming up with them faster than we can react. The list of players who don’t want to play there is threatening to grow longer than the ones who already do play there, so whether it’s Frenkie de Jong, or Adrien Rabiot, or Casemiro, or Sergiño Dest, it’s safe to expect the same story, with the same tag line:
“And in the end, the player told this once storied franchise to fuck right off.”
But then a name caught our eye—Christian Pulisic. He is apparently fine with the idea of being loaned out to Man United by Chelsea, which clearly has little use for him under the reign of Tusslin’ Tommy Tuchel, so he’s now part of the fevered rumor mill titled, “Who Can’t Say No To This Chemical Fire?” Because Pulisic is about at the end of his tether where he is.
This is important because he is one more American who has been declared the breakthrough guy, the one whose skills are so irresistible that the country as a whole will drop its remotes to watch him perform his majicks. He is almost surely the most recognizable athlete in American men’s soccer history (if not necessarily the best), so the name has some throw-weight. It did at Borussia Dortmund enough to make him the next Landon Donovan, and after an early stretch of success at Chelsea, injuries and Tuchel conspired to render him inert, to the point where even the five-substitute rule doesn’t seem to help him.
Still, Manchester United? The team whose badge should be a yellow “Hazardous Materials Inside” warning? The place where young stars say in unison, “Not in a million years, Jocko. I’d rather rot in Bulgaria”? This almost seems like the cruelest joke yet on the lad still called by unimaginative headline writers everywhere, “Captain America.” It is here that, should he join, he will learn what true athletic despair is, what contempt and derision sounds like when chanted from a thousand television studios. Put another way, the only other American athlete who would think this could be a good move is Patrick Reed.
It hasn’t become a done deal yet, but if it becomes a deal, it could mean that Pulisic is done. Not because he deserves it, but because Manchester United is actually a factory fire with shorts, a steady corrosive drip that bumps from ridiculous loss to embarrassing failure no matter the foe. It’s a place that in its present state will murder any budding career, and is unlikely to do much for one stalled the way Pulisic’s seems to be. The reports if he does leave will be universally hopeful, for most American soccer aficionados are still addicted to Pulisic like the morning’s first eight-ball, but the smart money is on Manchester United leaving him longing for Chelsea and Tuchel’s withering stare. Or maybe even MLS, even though he is 10 years below the age for that sort of east-west transfer.
We wish no ill on Pulisic (Comrade Haisley is holding an ice axe to my temple as I write this, so judge the sincerity of that sentence with that in mind), but Manchester United seems as ill as ill gets. And not in a cool, Captain America, kind of way. The sign of talent in the new world of soccer is having the résumé to refuse to go to United, so if you’re a good American, you should want him to go anywhere else. On earth.